Figure 1.--Sailor suits are generally seen to be girls clothes in Japan because they are a common uniform style at girls' schools. Both the boys and girls at this choir wear sailor suits. The only difference is that the boys wear short pants and lace up shoes and the girls wear skirts and strap shoes. These children are performing in the musical "Sound of Music". There is an old boy (O.B.) of Tokyo FM boys choir in the picture, the second person from left. He was in the second grade in junior high school.
Japan has several boy choirs. The internet sites, however, are in Japanese. So I know very little about them. They appear to be mostly boys choirs rather than mix boys and girls childrens groups. Im not sure when boys choirs were first formed in Japan, presumably after World War II. Unlike many European choirs they are not associated with Japanese churches or other religious groups. The Japanese have a unique nack of incorportaing fotrign institutions
and activities, often with their own unique style. After the War, the Japnese incoportated
many American and European styles and activities from baseball to Scouting--apparently
boys' choirs was one such import.
There is no indigenous tradition of children's choirs in Japan. It is almost entirely a European import. European and American missionaries enterd Japan after the opening by
American Admiral Perry in the mid-19th Century. The missionaries built churchs and
schools. These churches began organizing choirs, but the impact was limited.
Almost all Japanese children's choirs have been organized since the end of World
War II. Japan at this time looked abroad and many foreign activities and institutions
were imported. The Japanese primarily looked to Europe with its strong tradition
of boys' choral music. One of the most famous choir, Nishi-rokugo choir's director said
"Vienna Boys Choir (Austria) are the most influential for me".
The Japanese choirs vary greatly in musical ability. They can not be easily compared
with the better known European choirs where boys may board at the school and practice
daily. Some of the Japanese choirs may only meet for parctices once a week for 2-3 hours.
Those few choirs associated with schools may have a more rigorous practice schedule.
Boy choir Director are usually men. Many mixed children's and girls' choir
directors have women directors. This is in part because many fewer men choose to
major in music at Japanese universities. Science and buiness are much more popular fields for men.
Most all choir are mixed choirs. There are only a few boys choirs. In most mixed choirs, few boys participate. These groups are normally 90 percent are more girls as boys are
so reluctant to participate. The groups are fun to watch, but the rather limited training means that they do not begin to reach the same music standards as the European boys choirs. The Tokyo FM boys choir and Gyosei boys choir are rare cases, but very famous in Japan.
Figure 2.--This is the Victor Boys Club Choir, probably photographed in the 1960s. They wear red blazers and pink short pants with white kneesocks.
The Japanese choirs primarily perform popular music. Especially popular are Chiristmas songs, hymns, Japanese children's song, and animated movie music. Hayao Miyazaki is Japan's most famous animated movie director. His movies are very popular
and boys often sing his theme song. Japanese choirs do not perform the clasical and religious music that is sung by many European choirs. The Japanese choirs are not trained to the extent of the major European choirs. There are, for example, not boarding schools
for choristers in Japan. Thus the Japanese choirs are not trained to the standard of European choirs, nor do Japanese audience appear to want the classical performances given by many European choirs. Japanese choirs peform some clasical music, but they
do not concebtrate in it and studfy it like the European choirs do. Popular music is more widely performed by the Japanese choirs.
A typical program at a Japanese choral performance might include: 1.Sprituals,
2. Fukurou-Megane...Makiko Kinoshita, 3. Ayu no Uta...Akira Yuyama, and 4. Aoi-tikyuu to Kodomotachi...Hideo Kobayash.
Some impresarios have for years brought over British groups and continental European boychoirs (the Vienna and Kings College are very popular and usually sing to sold-out audiences that are 90 percent women and
girls). In recent times, impresarios have been arranging for some of the top British boy sopranos to make pop-like recordings and apperances for Japan. Boys Air Choir (English boy sopranos) in mid-1999 was the bestselling classical music CD in Japan.
There appears to be quite a number of Japanese children's choirs. We have noted both boys' choirs and mixed children's choirs. We have been able to find information on the following choirs, although our information is still quite limited. The various Japanese choirs have quite a variety of uniforms. The choirs appear to mostly dress in European style clothes. I do not know of any choirs performing in traditional Japanese costumes. Choirs in the 1950s and 60s appear to have primarily performed in blazers and short pants. Some choirs have more infgormal uniforms. Some even had berets. The short pants, especially the shorter cut continental styles, and berets suggests that for some reason France figured prominently in influencing boys fashions during this period. Choir costumes in the 1990s appear to include many informal costumes with just short-sleeved shirts. Some choirs perform in blazers with long dress trousers. These uniforms appear to have more of an American flavor about them. HOpefully our Japanese readers will provide more information on the different Japanese choirs.
There are many similarities in the garments worn by Japanese choirs. The uniforms adopted in the 1950s and 60s have begun to change in the 1990s. Most choirs have both formal and
informal costumes. Many uniforms are very casual, only "T" > shirts and shorts. It is common to give performances in casual clothes. The choirs operated by Chiristian churches and afilliate schools tend to have more formal uniform. But most Japan's children chorus are not religious. Because most Japanese believe that children should be lively and active, there are performances in such casual clothes. Of course, it depends on the nature of the
Figure 3.--This choir wears black berets, bright blue blazers, and white short pants. While berets are not commnly worn by Japanese boys, several choirs use them as part of their costume.
Japanese boys commonly wear caps of various types, in part because many schools require them. I have little information, but it appears that most choirs do not require caps. A
few, however, require berets. Berets are not common for Japanese boys. Some private (perhaps Chirstian) school have berets as uniform. But in this case, it is often only the girls
that wear berets. In some kindergartens, boys also wear berets. The use of berets for
boys' choir uniforms probably is related to the European influence. The Japanese looking
to Europe which has a strong tradition of boys' choirs.
Boys in formal outfits (jackets or vests) usually wear white shirts. Almost all formal outfits were worn with white shirts. One group had pink
long sleeved shirts that theu wore with pink shorts and kneesocks.
Many choirs also have informal costumes of "T" shirts and shorts. Often the choir name
or logo appears on these shits. Some boys also wear turtleneck long sleeved shirts.
The boys normally wear solid color neckties for formal performances. Some boys performing in Eton suits wear bowties. Some choirs have the boys perform in open necked shirts
without ties. One group in the 1960s and 70s wore white bows.
Most serious choirs have formal uniforms consisting of blazers, colarless Eton suits, or
vests. They come in many different colors, including red, blue, grey, and other colors.
Almost all Japanese choirs have short pants uniforms for boys. Only in the late 1990s have
long pants begun to appear. Some choirs allow older boys to comtinue participating. These
older boys are allowed to wear long pants.
Almost all boys and childrens choirs wear white kneesocks. One choir had short white socks and another pink kneesocks. The prevalent style, however, is white kneesocks.
Black leather dress up shoes are nmot as common in Japan as America and Europe. Elementary
schoolboys, for example, commonly wear white sneakers to school. Most boys choirs require
black leather shoes. One choir in the 1960s had red shoes to go with red blazers and pink
The mixed choirs often have to decide how to blend the uniforms of the boys and girls. There are typically two or three boys in a sea of girls. Often they wear the same caps, shirts or vests and then wear short pants rather than skirts, but the pants and skirts are nornmally of the same color. Both typically wear the the same white knee socks and black
I'm not sure who desisgns the uniforms. The choir directr may be involved. Perhaps
parents had a say, but in the generally more autthoriative Japnese system it is likely
that the administrators decided on their own. Once the decision was made, the same
uniforms were often worn for years.
Many Japanese boys are reluctant about joining a choir. Some boys are quite keen about
singing and performing. Other boys were proud to be selected for a choir. Most boys,
however, are not very interested. Some really dislike theidea. They generally believe
that participating in a choir is a girlish activity. Although most boys are reluctant, there are a few boys who are
interested in joining choirs. Some simply love singing. In many cases, however, their
parents (usually the mother) insist on their sons joining. Once joining the choir, however, all member wear same costume. Many boys are used to wearing a uniform as some elementary
schools require uniforms, in some cases similar to the less dressy choir costumes. As a result few boys object.
I'm a little unsure about the popular of choral music in Japan. One HBC contributor
believes that there appears to have been a boom in appreciation of children's choir music in Japan. Another knowledge Japanese obserer sees little change.
Most of the fans seem to be mothers who are often more interested in children's personalities and the like rather than the
music itself. The people who attend concerts and buy records do not seem to be serious classical, "longhair" musiclovers, of whom Japan also has many. The choir audiances appear to prefer more pop music.
The Tokyo broadcasting child chorus party is one of the several child chorus parties which are held throughout Japan. The party is held in the NHK broadcasting
center in the Tokyo city in the astringent juice valley ward. More than 300 children participate. They vary in academic level from the second year in high school down to the second year in elementary school. NHK held the first Tokyo broadcasting child chorus party in December, 1951. It was called the Tokyo broadcasting child chorus study meeting and subsequently the more familiar namer, the Tokyo broadcasting child chorus party. Each year preparation for the
Party begins in March. The selection and training begins to prepare the children. The first broadcasts begin in October. After that, appearances in radio station become quite frquent.
I am having a bit of difficulty making out the rest of the English text: becomes an active center, but it appears to be a chronlogical accont:
1957: It broadcasts in November, 1957, on the Tokyo broadcasting child chorus party 5 όN record wish performance meeting ( the Tokyo broadcasting child troupe and the combination ) NHK hall, exhibiting.
1961: The performance travel which is first with the city snow festival of February, 1961, the 10th of Niigata prefectures.
1962: The television program "Everybody's Song" first appeared in 1962. After that, the television appearances become more frequent. In September, the Tokyo broadcasting child chorus party 10 όN time table meeting per the same year. (The Tokyo broadcasting child troupe and the combination.) The NHK hall
May, 1964: The Hungarian boy girl chorus party and the π joy performance meeting appeared on television.
1966: IA western Germany I[xLw boy girl chorus party was held in January, 1966 of π½ television appearing, a volkslied in Japan and the announcement of the nursery phyme (the transcription for the child voice) in it per the same year by the premiere with the radio. February, the appearing of opera < the evening crane > per the same year are done. CCmz[ March, the premiere of " evening Χ of the present-day music " appearing < of the territory child ͺ > per the same year are done at the stage. In September, < of the territory child > ( the Colombia record ) < ͺ > but the Golden disk prize per the same year October, the singing of the Tokyo broadcasting child chorus party 15 όN record wish for every.
July, 1967: The Bulgarian Sofia boy girl chorus party and for every the same year π½ television appearing are done ( The Tokyo broadcasting child troupe and the combination ). The NHK hall
όά of April, 1968, 2nd of the BBC world amateur chorus contest October, the 50th time Η Japan πΏ band fixed period performance meeting the J ordeal music the yfcL[ composition ) , the art festival prize wining = the Tokyo culture hall per the same year
January, 1969: The R|WV complete works for the chorus the participation PAR=0EQUAL = the art festival wining for the recording of < of the territory child ͺ > out of ( the live sign F composition between ) The travel of it per the same year is done in August, the Niigata prefecture time rice paddy city performance. September, the opera per the same year < The dark mirror > ( Big ]OYμ, the dust river η sun will composition ) broadcasting participation PAR=0EQUAL = Italian prize wining
June, 1970: The 203rd time Japanese file harmony πΏ band fixed period performance meeting < 8th of Mahler > The Tokyo culture hall September, the appearing of Italian opera < the to orchid dot ( the vb`[j composition ) > per the same year are done. The Tokyo culture hall.
September, 1971: the 224th time day file fixed period performance meeting < first ί ( the xI[Y composition ) > appearing Tokyo culture hall The fixed period performance meeting of November, the 567th time NHK πΏ bands per the same year < First ί > ( Jean tl direction ) The appearing Tokyo culture hall
Figure 4.--These boys belong to the Tokyo FM Boys Choir. They wear green "T" shirts with the choir name, black short pants, and white knee socks.
Choristers in Japanese boy choirs are often selected for roles in musical theater. Broadway musicals are popular in Japan and often performef by local groups. The recording companies also draw on the choristers for Japanese recordings of muscical theater as well as other types of music recquiring boys' voices.
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